Yesterday, August the 29th
, marked the 84th
anniversary of the Evacuation of St Kilda, when the remaining thirty-six St Kildans, accompanied by the nurse and missionary, left the islands.
There are many aspects of the evacuation that were not unique in the story of St Kilda. St Kildans had emigrated before, particularly in the 1920s, and almost 200 years previously another evacuation had occurred as a response to an outbreak of smallpox that decimated the islands’ population. August the 29th 1930 was perhaps unique in that it saw a breaking up of the community – it is this sense of disjunction from their friends and family that comes through most in descriptions by St Kildans of the evacuation and its aftermath.
The evacuation in 1930 was not the end of the relationship between the St Kildans and their island home, as many returned in the early thirties to work their crofts or in find work in the employ of Lord Dumfries, the Islands’ new owner. Despite this, the evacuation is an important date on St Kilda as it marks the end of one way of life, and beginning of the way of life which exists on Hirta today, which is itself over fifty years old
We are fortunate, 84 years on, to regularly welcome the returning relatives of those thirty-six islanders who left on August 29th 1930, and before.
“Our descendants, whose numbers are in the hundreds, are dispersed throughout the world, and to them St Kilda is a word of mouth memory handed down to them by their parents”
- Calum MacDonald, From Cleits to Castles
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist